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Les Leyne: On eve of departure, Horgan snaps and lashes out at 'thuggery'

John Horgan had a few things to get off his chest.
Premier John Horgan talks to reporters at the B.C. legislature on Thursday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Premier John Horgan tried valiantly Thursday to ­minimize the strain and tension that the disqualification of upstart ­leadership challenger Anjali Appadurai has put on his party.

But his frustration built ­during a half-hour news conference and finally he snapped.

He unloaded an ­unfiltered take on the Greens, Appadurai and the ­environmental group involved in her membership scandal that got hotter as he went on and culminated in his cutting the appearance short and walking away from the microphone.

If the outgoing leader with ­little remaining stake in the game feels that strongly, you can imagine how heated things are among the people still deeply involved in trying to smooth over this mess.

David Eby later made his initial overtures to calm the seething party down by trying to placate everyone, ­including Appadurai. He’s going to announce a 100-day action plan today to try to change the ­channel and move past the ­bitterness.

But Horgan had a few things to get off his chest.

He said he’s “not at all concerned” about losing environmentalists from the party.

“There is no vote because one of the campaigns didn’t follow the rules and was disqualified. … These things happen. This has become a much more public affair and I’m fine with that.

“I’m sure the Appadurai ­campaign is fine with that because it strikes me that that was their objective from the beginning.”

Horgan said he has tangible evidence in his own riding that backs the party’s suspicion that Appadurai and the Dogwood Initiative convinced Greens to shift to the NDP to vote her in as leader. The family of the Green candidate who ran against him in Langford are now NDP ­members, he said, despite never supporting him and actively opposing him.

(The former candidate, Gord Baird, said he is not an NDP member and his family has switched back and forth over the years between the Greens and NDP depending on how the parties align with their values.)

Horgan said that to see all the hard work NDP members put into the party “taken away by a list that was designed by getting clicks on the internet is not how we should proceed, in my opinion.”

Horgan said any bad feelings formerly Green NDP members hold about the outcome are feigned. “They’re trying to accomplish by stealth what they couldn’t accomplish at the ballot box.”

In a burst of optimism, he said most people are getting on with their lives and aren’t worried about hurt political feelings.

But he conceded: “This isn’t how anybody wanted this to roll.”

Horgan tried to head off suspicions that an old boys club ran Appadurai off the ballot by giving a rundown of the executive that made the decision late Wednesday night.

It’s headed by an Indigenous man, 80 per cent of the executive are women and almost half are people of colour, he said.

But asked why their names are not made public by the party, he got more than a little worked up.

Referring to some online chatter about bombarding the executive with complaints, he said: “It’s because they’re being inundated by … Green Party members saying ‘We want to take over your party.’ They’re doing their job, volunteers, and they’re going to be abused by a bunch of people who cheated and want to get away with it?”

He said the executive members should not be ridiculed and abused by people who only joined the party because they got an email from someone who doesn’t even belong to the NDP.

“I can’t be more frustrated by that type of thuggery.”

Appadurai closed the day off with a belated appearance on the front steps of the legislature where she said the NDP has disillusioned her supporters and blocked them at every turn, but “I don’t think that’s a reason to rip up our memberships.”

She congratulated David Eby for his new role, but said almost 10,000 letters from her camp have been sent to NDP HQ and she’s still considering whether to contest her disqualification.

She wants to stay with the party, but the big question is whether the party wants her.

The party establishment endorsed the hostile report that condemned her tactics, so building a new relationship is going to involve a lot of diplomacy.

“We’re just getting started,” she said.

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